It’s now Massachusetts’ turn
After wins elsewhere, transgender rights faces key test in Bay State
FOR MANY, ELECTION NIGHT 2017 was a glimmer of hope after a downright dark political year. Races all over the country made history. One of the most significant was the election of Danica Roem in Virginia, one of the first openly transgender people elected to a state legislature in the United States. History was recorded, too, in Minneapolis, where voters elected not one, but two, transgender people of color to the city council.
Roem’s victory especially stands out. Her opponent, Robert Marshall – the state’s self-described “chief homophobe” – was a 13-year incumbent. Earlier this year he introduced legislation that would have required people to use the public restroom or locker room that corresponded with the gender listed on their birth certificate. The legislation died and, for now at least, so has his political career.
In less than a year, voters here in Massachusetts will decide whether to uphold the state’s transgender anti-discrimination law. This will be the first ever statewide vote at the ballot box on an anti-transgender measure. The recent victories in Virginia and Minnesota offer welcoming signs in the fight for transgender equality. In 2016, Massachusetts became the 18th state in the nation to adopt legislation that fully protects transgender people from discrimination in public places such as restaurants, shops, and hospitals. A short time after Gov. Charlie Baker signed the legislation into law, opponents collected the minimum number of signatures required for it to be placed on the ballot for repeal. Many may initially conclude that this law has no chance of repeal, that Massachusetts voters are pragmatic, inclusive, and compassionate. While we agree with that assessment of the electorate, we also know that opponents of this law will desperately and falsely attempt to position this ballot question as an issue of safety for women and children, and not an anti-transgender measure. Let’s be very clear, their campaign is driven by purely anti-transgender sentiments, bias, and myths.
Our campaign is taking nothing for granted and we are ready to ensure Massachusetts residents have the information necessary to make an informed vote. When voters in Virginia and Minnesota were faced with an option of exclusion and discrimination versus inclusion and acceptance, they made a decision based on strong values and common sense, not scary, hollow rhetoric. We know that voters here in Massachusetts will follow suit.As those behind the push to repeal the civil rights law reflect on this past election, let it be a warning: our path to victory is clear. Transgender people have always been, and always will be, part of our families and communities. As more of them step into public leadership positions, from our churches to our capitals, voters are getting to know them and standing with them. We know Massachusetts will too.
Kasey Suffredini is the cochair of the Freedom for All Massachusetts campaign, fighting to uphold the state’s transgender protection law from repeal at the ballot in 2018.